Exhibition News March 2019 - Page 17

Cautious pragmatism EN passes on some takeaways from a special Brexit EventHuddle, which focused on the potential implications of leaving the EU for the hospitality and events sector L ast month, EN attended a panel discussion on Brexit, featuring Nick de Bois, former adviser to Dominic Raab MP, and Juliet Price, consultant executive director of the HBAA (Hotel Booking Agents Association) and moderated by Kevin Jackson of Experience is in the Marketing. The tone of the debate, while cautious, was pragmatic, with both panellists urging businesses to be aware of potential risks but not to panic. Staffing is a key issue for Price’s association members, many of whom walk the line between the hospitality and events industry. She acknowledged that the concerns around staffing were “becoming more and more prevalent,” with members “not able to attract EU nationals at a level of skill that they were before.” De Bois pointed out that, “the settled status scheme is very straightforward and if the technology works it should be easy. In a deal or no deal situation EU citizens working here have the right to apply for settled status. We can go through a swift process to give you the rights that you have now and remain.” He added that whether or not there is a no deal Brexit, “the EU and the UK have effectively agreed that we will have visa-free travel Debate between here and Europe.” Both panelists said that for the events industry it was important to be introspective. Businesses “need to be aware of their client base and understand what their client’s agenda is,” advised Price. “You’ve got to try and get to grips with your client base and try to understand what their views are. “Costs are rising. It’s not just food costs that are going up, it’s also wages and those kind of costs need to be managed. The hospitality industry recognises that they are going to have to swallow it but clients are also going to have to carry some of that. Agencies need to be aware that they will see an increase in costs over the next year.” When asked about the issue of whether businesses should be considering opening a mainland European office, de Bois stated: “That question can only be answered by looking at the size and nature of your business. How a business adjusts itself in the current climate - there is a danger that we will get totally consumed by the dynamics of Brexit, if you look at the wider global economy we should also be thinking now about how we’re going to deal with the potential of a downturn. “We’re seeing factors out of our control affecting consumption and production around the world, that is something we should bear in mind. If I was in a small business now I would be trying to diversify my client base. That is your strength in difficult times.” EN The full discussion can be found on the EventHuddle YouTube channel. event w i f i . com March — 17